What Is A Double Boiler Method? What Can It Be Used For?

Image of melting chocolate in a double boiler

If you like to bake, you’ve probably heard of the double boiler method. It sounds intimidating, but it’s actually quite convenient. So, what is the double boiler method?

The double boiler method is a cooking method in which you boil some water in a pot and use the steam for cooking the ingredients kept in a vessel above the pot. This method offers constant, indirect heating that’s suitable for making custard and many other sweets, which are usually heat-sensitive.

Let’s now take a detailed look at what the double boiler method is, as well as some of the things that you can make with it. Spoiler: you can make things other than food with this method!

What Is A Double Boiler?

A double boiler is when you use two pots and steam for cooking or melting food.

The basic idea is you have a small pot inside a large pot. The small pot should be able to rest on the sides of the large pot without hitting the bottom.

Start by adding water to the large pot. Don’t fill the pot all the way to the top. You don’t want the bottom of the small pot to touch the surface of the water. Then, place it on the stove.

Turn on the heat and start bringing the temperature of the water up. What you’re aiming for here is a gentle simmer; you want to create steam, but not evaporate all the water.

Once you see steam coming off, you can place the small pot on top.

The steam will build on the bottom of the small pot and heat it. It’ll provide indirect, even heating to whatever you’re trying to cook.

Now your double boiler is ready. All you have to do to keep it going is replace the water in the large pot when it evaporates.

You can buy double boiler pots, but they can sometimes be expensive. The above-discussed DIY version works just as well and is customizable to the size you want.

Recommended Further Reading: What Double Boilers Are Used For? | What Be Used Instead Of A Double Boiler? | Can A Ceramic Bowl Be Used For A Double Boiler? | Can A Glass Bowl Be Used For A Double Boiler?

Types Of Double Boilers

If you’re a professional chef or plan to use a double boiler often, then it might be a good idea to invest in a double boiler pot.

There are two different types of boilers on the market:

1. Bowls

You can get stainless steel bowls that are specifically made to act as double boilers. They’re usually wide with short sides and have long handles.

Such bowls aren’t intended for heavy-duty cooking. Whisking or stirring too vigorously can remove the outer coating of the bowl.

The Songziming double boiler is one of the most popular double boiler bowls out there.

It comes in three different sizes: 480 ml, 600 ml, and 1000 ml. Its main selling features are that it doesn’t rust and doesn’t hold on to odors.

2. Double Deckers

If you’re looking for something you can use daily, a double-decker boiler is a great choice. It comes with two pots that fit on top of each other.

The top pot has a thin bottom to make heating faster. But because the top pot has a thin bottom, you can’t use it directly on the stove.

A great option for double-decker boilers is the T-Fal Stainless Steel Double Boiler. It can handle a lot of wear and tear, and it’s dishwasher safe.

Why Use A Double Boiler?

Your stove distributes heat unevenly, and it’s usually concentrated in a single area.

This means that when you place a pot on the stove, the part that is directly on top of the heat will warm up first. Then, using heat conduction, the heat will move to the rest of the pot.

Most of the time, this doesn’t matter when you’re cooking. The pot will heat up quickly enough for all the food to cook. But some food is temperature-sensitive; heat it too fast or for too long, and you’ll ruin it.

When heating is uneven, food will have to spend more time on the stove. So to fix this, you can use a double boiler.

The steam created in the double boiler will coat the bottom of the inner pot and heat the surface evenly.

This is why you don’t want the bottom of the inner pot to touch the water. At the point of contact with water, heat will build up much faster, defeating the whole purpose.

What Are Double Boilers Used For?

When a recipe asks for a double boiler, it’s not a good idea to leave it out. You’ll most likely burn the food and waste all your ingredients.

Some of the most common uses of double boilers are:

1. Tempering Chocolate

Tempering chocolate

Chocolate’s a delicate compound that’s sensitive to temperature. It’s made of a mixture of fat and milk.

This combo is volatile. It’s kind of like mixing oil and water.

If you heat the chocolate too quickly, the milk and fat will separate, and you’ll burn the chocolate.

2. Making Custard

Many people dread making custard. It’s tricky, and the custard can curdle easily. The trick to custard is to use a double boiler.

Custard gets its consistency from egg yolks. But if you put eggs straight on the stove, they coagulate and turn solid. This will make your custard lumpy and eggy.

Using a double boiler, you can heat the eggs very slowly, turning them creamy instead of lumpy. Then you can add the rest of your ingredients.

3. Making Emulsions

An emulsion is when you take two ingredients that you don’t want to mix and fuse them. It sounds complicated, but it’s a straightforward process.

We use emulsion to make things like mayonnaise, roux, and hollandaise sauce.

For an emulsion to work, it needs to be slow. And, if you involve heat, it should be indirect. Doing this ensures that your ingredients don’t separate and that you get a smooth mixture.

Interesting Further Reading: What Are Heatproof Bowls? | Which Knives Do Professional Chefs Use? | Are Cast Iron Woks Good? | How Does A Griddle Work?

4. Infusing Oil

Another interesting way to use a double boiler is for oil infusions. You can make all sorts of custom oils.

When you’re trying to make an oil infusion, you can’t just put it in a pot and turn up the heat.

Whatever you’re using to flavor the oil will fry up. So to do this, it has to be slow and steady.

Prepare your double boiler setup and fill the bottom pot with water. Then, add your oil to the top pot. Heat the oil for about 15 minutes.

After that, add your flavorings, and you can be as creative as you want. It can be garlic, thyme, chili, or even a combination.

Let the oil infuse in the double boiler for about two to four hours.

The longer you let the infusion go, the stronger the flavor.

It’s important to remember to keep topping off the bottom pot with water. If you forget and all the water evaporates, you can burn more than just the oil.